St Cuthberts Care's skipper sets sail for new adventures

01 May 2014

Austin retirement event

After effectively steering a course through some choppy economic waters St Cuthberts Care Chief Executive, Austin Donohoe, has retired after nearly two decades at the helm.

In a recorded video message played at a celebration last night the charity's patrons Ant and Dec told boating enthusiast, Austin, that it was now time to "chillax" after his years transforming the organisation into one of the largest and most successful care charities in the region.

Guests at the retirement event in Sunderland also heard a message of tribute from Alan Shearer relayed by patron Mike Browne. Mike said that Alan knew personally how much Austin has done to revolutionise disability provision in the North East through developing the Alan Shearer Centre and that he was very proud to put his name to the facility which remains unique in the region.

Mike added: "Austin has achieved enormous success. It's impossible to know the full scale of what he has done because it is so vast and detailed, but it's marvellous to think of everyone who has been touched by what he has achieved."

Since being appointed in 1996 Austin has re-branded and re-shaped the charity’s fostering and children’s residential services and pioneered the project which became the Alan Shearer Centre as well as its dedicated fundraising arm the Alan Shearer Foundation.

Mike, the biggest single contributor to the charity, told the priests, trustees, colleagues and service users at the retirement celebration how he had been inspired to become involved with the charity following a meeting with Glaswegian accountant, Austin.

"Beware when you go out for a meal with Austin. It was the most expensive 'free' lunch I have ever had in my whole life!" said Mike, "I'm happy to donate and have loved every second of my involvement especially when I can see what good it does and knowing that because of Austin's prudence not a penny is wasted. I know of no one else who would cut a dishwasher tablet in half!

"I personally, and on behalf of everyone who has been touched by your work, wish you a very, very happy retirement," he said.

The event was held at the Holy Cross residential care home in Sunderland, which itself was saved from closure by Austin in 2012.

After a Celebration Mass, Austin was accompanied out of the home's chapel by a Scottish piper playing Flower of Scotland. A 3D cake in the image of his Kielder-moored yacht, Ailsa Craig, was presented to him along with a caricature of him on the boat as well as gifts of whisky, wine and a trip to London, including tickets for the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden for a performance of Tosca.